Investigation into the decision of the pilgrims to move to North America in 1620.
The Pilgrims turned out to be legends when they relocated to North America from England in 1620 on board the prominent Mayflower. It is assumed that they were in search of religious liberty but this is the American myth which may not be entirely true. King Henry VIII, the ruler of England 1509-1547 created a new state church and named it the Church of England. This was in 1534 where the kingdom had been a Roman Catholic state (Greenia, 57). However, the people still sensed that the new church had retained most of the traditions of the previous church even after the King and his descendant, Queen Elizabeth I had made several changes. Therefore, several people advocated for the return of the old way of worship which was less regulated and they practiced simpler faith. These people were later known as Puritans since they wanted to cleanse the clerical.
A different group also emerged identified as the Separatists who would later be recognized as the Pilgrims. They alleged that the new church was nowhere near reorganization. Their opinion was to form an original isolated church from the Church of England. This was a risky move since it was considered unlawful to be a member of any other clerical in the 1600s (Bradford, 5). Some congregants of the Separatist church were William Brewster and Young William Bradford. They formed Plymouth Colony in New England but because they declined to be led by the guidelines of the Church of England, they were penalized, beaten and jailed. They would later decide to take off to Dutch Netherlands when they had enough of the sufferings to go exercise their own conviction where there was independence. Living in Netherlands was difficult since they had to work twice as much to live in the foreign nation.
The Pilgrims had already found the much needed spiritual independence they craved in Netherlands where they lived for more than a decade but they were not happy. They were obligated to relocate again since they also feared war would erupt amidst Spanish and the Dutch. Besides, they did not want to lose their individuality as English people and they were deeply concerned of the welfare of their offspring who were slowly being assimilated into the Dutch values (Bradford, 8). The people also longed to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who had not yet heard of it. After careful consideration, they chose move and occupy the Virginia Colony in North America where they would exercise their faith but still be under the governance of the English regime. Therefore, the relocation to America was not in search of religious liberty as many people believe since they had already found this in Netherlands.
The Pilgrims had been languishing in poverty in Netherlands. They were being overworked in Leiden’s textile industry being paid peanuts and worked long tiring hours. They could not convince other Separatists who had been left in England to follow them in their fresh found religious independence. Those left in England preferred the prisons to the new liberty of those in Netherlands due to the economic hardship they experienced. The Pilgrims were also not happy with the morals of the Dutch society and were scared that their kids were being swayed into immorality. They did not want them to turn away from the church and also lose their English personality. The people craved greater economic stability and desire to preach the gospel (Greenia, 57). They planned to create an agricultural settlement when they relocated to America.
The pilgrims had been languishing in poverty and did not have enough capital. They resulted to seek help from financial investors who saw their potential because of their industrious and closely knit nature. The Pilgrims were already accustomed to hardships and would fetch the investors some good profit if they worked together. They worked for seven years for the investors in a deal they had made so as to fetch returns for the investors. The Pilgrims were determined to make huge sacrifices for future generations even though this took a toll on them (Greenia, 58). When they finally started their move to America, a large number of the congregation was left behind since they could not all fit in the small ship, Speedwell they had purchased. However, this did not deter their move with some of their leaders like Rev. John Robinson choosing to be left behind. They were ready to sacrifice their wellbeing for the sake of the future of their generation. This journey would later come to be an important piece of history even for the Americans since they influenced their religion.
The investors also required that the Pilgrims move with some of their people who craved commercial success as a way to finance their investment. They travelled with a ship known as Mayflower that had been rented by the investors. Eventually, they travelled with Mayflower since Speedwell leaked and they had to abandon it. The congregation finally docked in New England after 66 days of cruise and would anchor in Cape Cod Bay even though it was against their initial plan of living in New York near the Hudson River. Cape Cod Bay is where the Mayflower Compact, a document that established the basis for the people’s governance was signed by the older males on the ship (Bradford, 10). This decision was arrived at after the economic migrants snubbed to abide by the terms of the financiers and the document was drawn to subdue any impending revolution and set the rules for self-governance.
The Pilgrims finally moved to Plymouth Harbor after searching for a land suitable for their farming. By 1627, the Pilgrims were established and contented and more individuals who had been left behind joined them. The sacrifices of the Pilgrims had finally paid off perhaps due to their perseverance and faithfulness to their God. Bradford acknowledges these blessings upon them by declaring that they had become the greatest nation on earth (Bradford, 12). They existed in harmony with a community known as the Wampanoag and after their first bumper yield, they invited them for a three day festivity. This is what today is known as the Thanksgiving day. It is evident that the Pilgrim’s move to America influenced the culture in ways they could have never imagined. Additionally, the Mayflower Compact is seen as an important document that changed the democratic government in America due to its fundamental principles of common consent and self-government.
The history of the Pilgrims has countered the myth of the Americans that they were in search of religious freedom. The Pilgrims had already found their religious freedom in the Netherlands but they moved to America due to some other reasons. They needed financial stability so as to convince other Separatists who had remained in England to link up with them. This would also deliver their counterparts from the oppression they were being subjected to due to absence of religious liberty in England. The latter were not ready to suffer in Netherlands from poverty like their colleagues and preferred the prison to such oppression. The Pilgrims would later make the crucial decision of relocating to America in search of financial freedom and to spread the gospel. They also wanted to retain their English personality by preventing their children from being assimilated into the immoral values of the Dutch.
Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation. 1856.
Greenia, George. “Pilgrimage and the American myth.” Redefining Pilgrimage. Routledge, 2016. 57-80.